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Judge dismisses McClellan's petition seeking blog commenters IP addresses

Former judicial candidate and McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan speaks at a forum hosted by the McHenry League of Women Voters Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 at McHenry County College.
Former judicial candidate and McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan speaks at a forum hosted by the McHenry League of Women Voters Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 at McHenry County College.

A former McHenry County clerk's attempt to identify a group of anonymous blog commenters and sue them for defamation came to a halt when a judge dismissed the case Friday.

Former McHenry County Clerk and judicial candidate Mary McClellan never filed an amended petition seeking information about the anonymous commenters who called her "diabolical,” “satanic” and a “whore.” The lack of action prompted McHenry County Judge Thomas Meyer to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning McClellan can't attempt to bring the matter to court again.

Now Woodstock attorney Robert Hanlon is seeking attorneys fees for his work representing local blogger and former state representative Cal Skinner.

The situation began in October, when McClellan filed a civil petition seeking, among other details, internet service provider and IP addresses of anonymous posters on Skinner's website, McHenry County Blog. At the time, McClellan was a candidate for a third subcircuit judicial vacancy. She lost that title in March to sitting McHenry County Judge Justin Hansen.

If Meyer had granted the petition, McClellan planned to use that information to file a defamation lawsuit against individual commenters, who she alleged defamed her online.

Instead, Meyer granted Hanlon's motion to dismiss the petition in March, and allowed McClellan time to file a new version by April, but she never did.

"Negativity breeds negativity," McClellan said Monday. "It’s just not something I want to keep dwelling upon."

According to McClellan, national stress surrounding COVID-19 and other current events led her to "re-evaluate" her priorities.

"It wasn't going to take any of the nasty things they said away," McClellan said.

On Oct. 2, a McHenry County Blog commenter with the user name “Nunya” posted that McClellan’s husband, Ed Gil, attempted to collect $11,000 in unemployment while he also was receiving workers’ compensation.

Gil previously worked under McClellan as an election analyst during her time in the county clerk's office from December 2014 to November 2018.

McClellan has denied the accusation and said information regarding Gil’s claim was privileged and known by only a select few.

Hanlon, however, argued that the comments, including those claiming McClellan is “a crook” and “wicked,” were protected because they are matters of opinion or parody and McClellan, he said, is a public figure.

The matter will resume in court Thursday morning. Hanlon is expected to ask the judge to award Skinner and his attorney fees and costs associated with Hanlon's time spent on the case.

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